WBA mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin, and not Deontay Wilder, could well be the next opponent for triple world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua as a deal for the fight is said to be close.
British boxer Joshua holds three of the four major world titles in this boxing weight category, after 2 when ending the undefeated streak of New Zealand's Joseph Parker via unanimous decision last time out.
Prior to that, AJ won the vacant WBA (Super) heavyweight strap alongside the minor IBO world title in a battle with Ukrainian legend Wladimir Klistchsko in April 2017. Joshua has also been IBF heavyweight champ since 2016 when he dethroned Charles Martin.
Since outpointing Parker in the Welsh capital, Cardiff, back in March, speculation has run wild that AJ could compete in a division unification bout against WBC champion Wilder. No man has ever held all four major boxing organisation's world titles, but talks over this super-fight are ongoing.
“We have to move because the WBA want to know what's happening,” Eddie Hearn, who promotes Joshua, told the BBC. “We pretty much have a deal in place with Povetkin. At the moment it looks like we're fighting him, but things could change.”
AJ could fight veteran Povetkin before or after Wilder, as it is understood that the WBA would not stand in the way of the Brit battling the Bronze Bomber, as long as the Russian fought the winner of their encounter next.
The hype surrounding a unification bout between unbeaten boxers Joshua and Wilder has built up to such an extent already that taking on Povetkin enroute could be something of an anti-climax. Hearn is confident, however, that a deal for the Wilder clash, which is such a natural box office draw, will be thrashed out soon.
“I believe we'll get a deal done with Deontay quite soon,” Hearn added. “With the Povetkin situation, it could well be that AJ fights Povetkin in September and after that Wilder in February or March .”
Oddsmakers have already priced up the dream fight between AJ and Wilder, so when it's made official you can guarantee 2 from companies like Coral and William Hill on who will win.
Betting markets on the bout are already open. Joshua is made favorite on both sides of the Atlantic, yet Wilder is not what you'd call a big outsider to break the Brit's pro streak.
As for Povetkin, dig a little deeper and you'll see whether AJ fights him, the White Lion, or Wilder next, the triple champ is in for a fight. Only legend Klitschko has beaten Povetkin in the paid ranks, so on a form line through the Ukrainian, it's highly likely Joshua would be favorite to win their matchup.
AJ v Povetkin pits two former amateur Olympic gold medallists against one another and, although the Russian is a decade older than the Brit, it highlights how that route can be taken to reach the top of boxing.
The main stumbling block over fighting Wilder, meanwhile, is not a question of when but where the bout takes place. Joshua has never fought as a pro outside of his native Britain, yet Wilder is five from five when competing away from the USA.
Those victories include a 70-second first round stoppage of Audley Harrison in Sheffield, England back in April 2013, long before he catpured the WBC belt, yet the noises out of Wilder's camp is that he wants AJ to come across the pond and fight him on home soil. Hearn, of course, is well aware of this.
“Wilder doesn't want this fight in the UK,” he said. “He might take it, but he doesn't want it. It's a disadvantage for him; just like it is for Anthony in the US.”
Negotiations continue, and one side or the other will have to give ground about whether it's Britain or America that hosts the bout. There's certainly a collective will within boxing to have Joshua fight Wilder.
For the time being, however, it looks as thought Povetkin is the next challenger to AJ. This appetizer to the main event which will garner so much global sporting attention might not be so bad after all.